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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating new look about the birth narratives
The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are so familiar, heard every Christmas in church and on the radio, that I wasn't sure there was much more I could learn about them. How wrong I was! Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book started brilliantly; within the first chapter I was hooked on what they unfolded. They approach the birth narratives as parables/metaphors,...
Published on 6 Nov 2008 by Helen Hancox

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3.0 out of 5 stars The First Christmas
I have read a number of books by Borg alone or by Borg and Crossan. They are usually easy reads, but that is not the case with this.

I hoped for an easy read on the Christmas theme, but this book is hard going. I agree with what they are saying, but I feel that I am ploughing through a text book.

It is not nearly as good as The Last Week, which...
Published on 9 Jan 2012 by Liz Smith


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating new look about the birth narratives, 6 Nov 2008
By 
Helen Hancox "Auntie Helen" (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are so familiar, heard every Christmas in church and on the radio, that I wasn't sure there was much more I could learn about them. How wrong I was! Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book started brilliantly; within the first chapter I was hooked on what they unfolded. They approach the birth narratives as parables/metaphors, not particularly addressing modern-day ideas of historicity but instead looking at the narratives and their structure in terms of what the gospel writers might have wanted to say. It becomes clear that Matthew and Luke are very different, with Matthew presenting Jesus as the New Moses, reflecting many images and ideas from Jewish writings, and Luke's emphasis on the stories as an overture to his larger themes of women, the marginalised and the Holy Spirit.

The book goes step-by-step through some parts of the nativity stories, explaining the historical context for many of the events, showing the parallels and the differences between the gospels, relating parts to historical or metaphorical events. I found the book began slightly to drag by the end but I was really taken by much of what they said, particularly the links Matthew makes between Jesus, Moses and Caesar. Some more conservative Christians will probably find the liberal tone of the book too much to stomach which is a real shame as there are some real gems in here, but for those with an open mind and an interest in understanding more about the world of the time of Jesus this is an unmissable book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Transform your Christmas Hymns and Services, 19 Jun 2009
By 
A. Gilmore (Lancing, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
An attempt by two distinguished American scholars to get at the heart of what the birth stories mean without getting embroiled in their historical accuracy or the biblical and theological arguments arising within them, beginning with the gospel stories which they see as overtures, parables or stories with meanings rather than history, setting the tone and themes for what is to come.
The context is then explored `within Christianity, within Judaism, within the Roman empire', and against the background of the immediate past and explore with no shortage of detailed information on the ancient world's view of virgin birth and divine conception.
Light (as opposed to darkness) is regarded as an archetypal symbol whose imagery pervades the Old and New Testaments and probably explains why the birth of Jesus taking place on a winter evening in the middle of a dark night. This is not so much historic time as parabolic time, metaphorical time, sacred time and symbolic time.
Predictions (`that it may be fulfilled . . .' ) are not predictions of something to happen in the distant future and certainly not predictions of Jesus. Matthew, for example, is not trying to prove that Jesus was the Messiah nor was he trying to impress or convince `outsiders' but to reflect the convictions of `insiders'.
The value of these stories lies in what mean for us today rather than what meant in origin. We are to understand and relate them to our situation, with an emphasis on joy but joy with conflict, and see advent as a time of anticipation, expectation and repentant preparation but a repentance that has more to do with change than with confessing our sins.
Commended especially to preachers and leaders of worship. It could transform our Christmas services, create new life in the midst of traditional ritual and present the gospel in a way which has meaning for everybody.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The nativity stories, or a tale of two empires, 20 Dec 2008
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
Following on from their highly successful collaboration `Last Week: What the Gospels Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem', Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan examine here the two accounts at the other end of Jesus' life - the nativity stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Steering adroitly away from discussion about the historical veracity or otherwise of the events Matthew and Luke portray, the authors concentrate instead on analysing what meaning the Gospel writers were trying to convey to their hearers and readers through the conscious, careful construction of what they wrote. By close textual (and contextual) analysis, they seek to demonstrate that Matthew was trying to portray Jesus as a new Moses, while Luke aimed to show that a new ruler was here, challenging the emperor Augustus' claim to be `Lord' and `Saviour' of the known (Roman) world.

What's fresh and exciting about this is the way Borg and Crossan then bring their conclusions right up to date by juxtaposing Matthew and Luke' challenge to the Roman empire with the challenge of Jesus now to contemporary Western (and particularly American) ideologies of empire, even reclaiming George Bush's language of `manifest destiny' for Jesus: this is a startling, if understated, critique of American pretensions to impose its superpower views on the rest of the world. For those in thrall to the American vision, Jesus' alternative way is clearly signposted here. A possibly epoch-making book: it only misses five stars because its American focus will not necessarily be to UK tastes, and because there's a certain amount of repetition and redundancy in the argument.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A laywoman's view, 26 Feb 2009
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This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
I had known for many years that some of the titles used by early Christians to refer to Jesus upset the Romans ( to put it mildly!)This book explains exactly why the use of those titles was so upsetting, and so dangerous to these early followers of "The Way ".
This book is a fascinating mixture of politics and theology , and offers real insight into the background of the beginning of the Christian church.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good and honest introduction to the Nativity stories, 9 Jan 2012
This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
I have read this book several times and I have also sent copies of to friends; I can therefore say that I believe it be a book which demands a wider readership. The book deals with how we should approach the Gospels, particularly the Nativity Narratives, and how we may think about the many 'miraculous' happenings described therein. It is not seeking to debunk the Christian faith but help ordinary Christians cope with questions which seem difficult in a society far removed from that of 2,000 years ago.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The First Christmas, 9 Jan 2012
This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
I have read a number of books by Borg alone or by Borg and Crossan. They are usually easy reads, but that is not the case with this.

I hoped for an easy read on the Christmas theme, but this book is hard going. I agree with what they are saying, but I feel that I am ploughing through a text book.

It is not nearly as good as The Last Week, which deals with the last week of Jesus' earthly life.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unanswered questions, 10 Feb 2009
By 
M. Findley (St. Albans, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus's Birth (Paperback)
A well researched and interesting book which casts new light on the biblical stories of Jesus' birth and makes one think again. As always with Marcus Borg's books, the conclusions he draws from his research are thin and he misses the key spiritual framework so that such events can be seen in real context.
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